Entries Tagged as 'Windows 7'

Windows – Desktop Search

Most people realize how valuable Internet search engines are; but not everyone has figured out how valuable desktop (and server) search engines can be.

Even in corporate environments where data storage is highly organized it’s easy to forget where something is, or not know that someone else has already worked on a particular document — but if you could quickly and efficiently search all the public data on all the machines in your organization (or home) you could find those pieces of information you either misplaced or never knew about.

With Windows Search it just happens.  If you have access to a document, and you search — you can find it.  Open up a file explorer Window and point it at location you think it might be, type in the search box — and matching documents quickly appear (and those that don’t match disappear).  Do the same thing against a remote share – and it happens magically (the remote box does all the work).  It’s even possible to  be able to search multiple servers simultaneously – and it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to setup.

Windows Search is already on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 as well as Windows Vista (you’ll want to apply updates) — and easily installable on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.  In fact, the defaults will probably do fine — just install and go (of course it will take a little while to index all your information).

A developer can fairly easily enhance search to include more document types using (plenty of examples, and it uses a model that Microsoft has employed in many parts of Windows)…   The search interface can be used via API, embedded in a web page, or just used directly from the search applet (which appears in auto-magically in Windows 7 and Windows Vista).

Very few Microsoft products are worth praise — but Windows Search is; and from my personal experience no competitor on any platform compares.

To those looking to write a “new” desktop search; look at Windows Search and understand what it does and how it works before you start your design.

Windows Search

Originally posted 2010-07-17 02:00:24.

Virtual CloneDrive

I’ve tried a number of virtual CD/DVD drive tools for Windows over the years.

Daemon Tools was one of the first (free) solutions that really worked well; but success went to their heads and to describe it as anything but a POS would be way too kind.

Microsoft released a very basic driver for Windows XP, and everyone hoped that they would just include the feature in future releases of Windows; but disappointment from Microsoft isn’t new, and isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.  Neither Windows Vista or Windows 7 had the feature, and the Windows XP driver can’t be used in anything but Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Gizmo was a descent solution; the free version had all the features I really needed, it worked — but there was just so much baggage that came with being able to mount drive images; and there were times when it just didn’t work properly.

Virtual CloneDrive has been around for a very long time —  and it’s free.  In the past it always seemed like a so-so solution to the problem, but history has a way of rewarding the companies that stick with a fairly simple paradigm and who builds a product that just works.

While I’m not a huge fan of SlySofts other products (AnyDVD just never seems to work as advertised — and it’s an expensive solution), I have to say that Virtual CloneDrive is probably one of the absolute best virtual CD/DVD solutions for Windows.

Virtual CloneDrive

NOTE: Virtual CD/DVD solutions are used to create a virtual CD/DVD drive from an image of the disk (ISO, BIN, CCD, etc).

Originally posted 2010-07-22 02:00:40.

Windows 7 – Device Stage

Microsoft® Windows 7 has a really cool feature called Device Stage.

It presents all your hardware devices together in one place and allows you to organize information.  You know like synchronize information between your computer and the devices.

If you look on Microsoft’s web site you’ll see a great article detailing how you can fully synchronize your smart phone without knowing any details of hardware or software — just plug in the cable and tell it what program to use on the PC to synchronize with (and unlike in previous versions you don’t need Outlook).

Well, call me tickeled pink…

I plugged in my Microsoft Mobile 6.5 Smart Phone… and I just can’t tell you how disappointed I was.  Mobile Device Center (the abomination from Vista that replaced ActiveSync) downloaded, installed, and opened and told me I didn’t have any source of contacts or calendar information…

So Windows 7, the new flag ship of Microsoft’s desktop strategy ships without a connector for Windows Mobile 6.5, the new flag ship of Microsoft’s phone strategy… how sad.

I’d say Microsoft has convinced me I should buy an iPhone and use a Mac — Apple products actually work together.

Well, call me disappointed…

The slogan for Windows 7 should be something like

Maybe Windows 8, 9, 10, or 11…

Originally posted 2009-11-08 01:00:16.

Windows 7 – Boom or Bust?

What is it about Windows 7 that’s supposed to be so great???

I’m at a total lose.

Other than being a little faster than Vista on a low end machine I’m finding most of the changes make it worse not better.
Still same problems with UAC, install an app with admin privileged and then allow it to run and you’re screwed — so if the installer wasn’t written properly Win7 ain’t gonna help you, and if the installer was written properly it worked fine on Vista.
Administration tasks are moved around (again), and many details are hidden.
Lots of the new features are nothing more than dummy-proofing the OS; which probably doesn’t make it any easier for dummies, just harder for people who have a clue.
The overall appearance of Win7 looks like a kindergartner with crayons created it after looking at a Mac.
Having media playback components built in is nice, but many CODECs are still missing and the only support for MKV containers if from a third party (DivX); and  the entire media playback system has been changed (maybe it’ll be better in the long run, but it just makes it that much harder to do the things that were straight forward under Vista and XP).   Answer me this, if you have to install a piece of third party software to support media playback does it really matter whether or not Microsoft included a few very popular ones but not a full compliment?
The virtualization component is a joke.  Hyper-V would have been great, but instead we’re stuck with a minor improvement on Virtual PC (just download Sun’s free VirtualBox and forget about it; that will run on machines without hardware assisted virtualizaton, support a much more modern virtual machine, and be far less clunky than what Microsoft provides).
Most all the new features that promised to make Win7 more task oriented just aren’t really complete — the number of devices they support are minuscule… which means it really isn’t a feature, it’s a promised feature (which will probably require quite a few updates).  And we all know how good Microsoft is at keeping promises once the checks have been cashed.
The only thing I’ve really found about it that’s substantially better than Vista is the ability to find drivers on the web a feature that would have been straight forward to add to any previous version of Windows.
From what I can see Windows 7 is nothing substantially more than re-branding Vista SP3 (which is probably why the internal version number is 6.1 not 7) to try and shed the bad reputation Microsoft created with all the issues with releasing Vista before it was ready.  Not to mention create a revenue stream (a service pack would have been free to the individuals who bought Vista; and remember Windows 7 Upgrades cost the same regardless of the version of Windows you had).
I have a feeling that all Windows 7 will do for me is define the moment in time that I begin to move away from Microsoft and Windows… it’s really too bad the only viable option at the moment is a Mac… but then again, high end Macs are reasonably cost effective.

I will move my desktops and laptops to Windows 7 (I’ve already purchased the licenses); and I will continue to post my experiences with Windows 7 (hopefully some of them will be positive); but I will start considering non-Microsoft solutions.

Originally posted 2009-11-20 01:00:08.

Desktop Search

Let me start by saying that Windows Desktop Search is a great addition to Windows; and while it might have taken four major releases to get it right, for the most part it works and it works well.

With Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 Desktop Search is installed and enabled by default; and it works in a federated mode (meaning that you can search from a client against a server via the network).

Desktop Search, however, seems to have some issues with junction points (specifically in the case I’ve seen — directory reparse, or directory links).

The search index service seems to do the right thing and not create duplicates enteries when both the parent of the link and the target are to be indexed (though I don’t know how you would control whether or not the indexer follows links in the case where the target wouldn’t normally be indexed).

The search client, though, does not seem to properly provide results when junction points are involved.

Let me illustrate by example.

Say we have directory tree D1 and directory tree D2 and both of those are set to be indexed.  If we do a search on D1 it produces the expected results.  If we do a search on D2 it produces the expected results.

Now say we create a junction point (link) to D2 from inside D1 called L1.  If we do a search on L1 we do not get the same results as if we’d searched in D2.

My expectation would be that the search was “smart” enough to do the search against D2 (taking the link into consideration) and then present the results with the path altered to reflect the link L1.

I consider this a deficiency; in fact it appears to me to be a major failing since the user of information shouldn’t be responsible for understanding all the underlying technology involved in organizing the information — he should just be able to obtain the results he expects.

It’s likely the client and the search server need some changes in order to accommodate this; and I would say that the indexer also needs a setting that would force it to follow links (though it shouldn’t store the same document information twice).

If this were a third party search solution running on Windows my expectation would be that file system constructs might not be handled properly; but last time I checked the same company wrote the search solution, the operating system, and the file system — again, perhaps more effort should be put into making things work right, rather than making things [needlessly] different.

Originally posted 2010-01-22 01:00:57.

Windows 7 – Upgrade Advisor

If you’re considering upgrading your current PC to Windows 7, you should really download, install, and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor will provide you with information about programs you have on your system that may not be compatible with Windows 7, and it will indicate devices that you may need to locate the driver manually.

Generally the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor does a great job giving you specific information on obtaining everything you will need to upgrade your system; and it’s much easier to local all those items while you still have a working machine.

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Originally posted 2009-11-10 01:00:27.

Windows Live Mail

Part of the Microsoft Live Essential software suite available either from Live.com (see link below) or through the Microsoft Update is Live Mail; a simple, fairly versatile email client.

Live Mail allows access to POP3, IMAP4, and Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail.

Live Mail is a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (from Vista).

It’s nicely polished, and for the most part works without any major issues (like any software, it has bugs and annoyances).

One thing you may not like is the fact that Live Mail hides the menu bar (you can enable it; but even that seems to be made purposely difficult in the latest version).

The biggest annoyance I have with Live Mail is that it will not import an IAF (that’s an export file) created with Outlook Express or Windows Mail (thank you very much Microsoft for paying such close attention to customer needs).

If you have a Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail account you will probably want to choose this product as an email client on your computer; if you don’t you may want to look at Thunderbird (part of the Mozilla project, as is Firefox).

The feature I like most about Live Mail (and it’s predecessors) is the ability to drag an email out of Live Mail onto my local file system and put it back (Thunderbird doesn’t have any convenient way to put a message back).  This isn’t a feature that should be a deal breaker for most anyone (if you need to do it, you know how to do it with Thunderbird — it just won’t be quite as easy).

Overall, Live Mail is a descent program, and it’s priced right — FREE.

Windows Live Essentials

NOTE:  GMail content can be access by either POP3 or IMAP4; simply follow the instructions on GMail to enable it and add it to Live Mail or any email client that supports POP3 or IMAP4 over a SSL connection (and allows you to specify the port numbers).

Originally posted 2009-11-24 01:00:40.

System Update Readiness Tool for Windows

If you have any issue installing Windows V6 SP2 or an update for Vista or Server 2008 you might want to download and run the System Update Readiness Tool from Microsoft.

You can read about it and download it via the link below.



Originally posted 2009-06-08 11:00:04.

Windows 7 – Clean Install

One of the best ways to insure that your computer will have an optimal installation of Windows 7 is to do a clean installation.  Of course, you have to make sure you save off all the information on your machine before you start (the migration wizard can help, but if you have important data you might want to be doubly sure).

With Windows 7 when you install on a clean hard drive, either a brand new one or one that you have deleted all the partitions, Windows 7 will want to create a small (100MB) primary/active/system partition for recovery (WinRE – Windows Recover Environment), but that really isn’t needed since it would put the files for WinRE on the system partition if it didn’t have the ability to create the small partition.

There’s no straightforward way to get the installer not to create the WinRE partition, but there are ways to do it.

Using A Disk Manager (3rd Party)

By far the easiest way is just to partition the drive ahead of time, you can allow the installer to format it.  I recommend something like Acronis Disk Director, but you can use almost any software you want.

Using Windows DiskPart

If you’re a “geek” and understand how to use Microsoft diskpart utility you can hit Shift+F10 at the first setup screen (where you select language, keyboard, and locale) and a command prompt will open.  From there you can use the diskpart utility.

Be warned, if you’re unfamiliar with the diskpart utility you might not want to be too quick to use it… it’s unforgiving.

Commands that will help you with diskpart (in the order you’d use them)

  • list disk
  • select disk 0
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=ntfs quick
  • exit

There are options to many of these commands I haven’t specified.  If you’re not a geek and you don’t understand disk geometry (partitions) you probably shouldn’t be doing this.  Read up on diskpart before trying this at home — even if you think you know what you’re doing it’s worth looking over the commands.

Using The Windows 7 Installer

You can trick the installer into getting rid of the WinRE partition; simply let it do what it wants and create the two partition.  Then delete the LARGE partition that you’d normally install Windows into (leaving only the 100MB partition).  Extend the 100MB partition to fill the disk.  Then format the partition and select it for installing Windows.

I’m sure there are other clever ways to accomplish this… but it’s really hard to understand why Microsoft wants to make this difficult.  In point of fact the Mac creates a small EFI Boot partition much the same as Windows 7 wants to… so maybe it’s just Microsoft getting wrapped up in doing things like Apple; maybe there’s a good reason; maybe it’s just stupid.  You decide.

NOTE1:  I would be extremely careful about using a disk partition manager after installation to delete the WinRE partition.

NOTE2:  I generally recommend letting the installer format the drive even if you’ve already prepared it with a disk partition manager.  This insures that the file system defaults are set the way Microsoft expects.  If you don’t know about all the parameters for setting up an NTFS file system and understand their impact on the system, save yourself a headache and let the installer format the partition.

Originally posted 2009-11-09 01:00:43.

Windows 7 – Virtualization, Revisited

I posted yesterday on Windows 7 virtualization, and suggested that if you’d purchased Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate you’d probably just want to use the built-in Microsoft Virtualization (based on the Virtual PC 2007 code line).

However, after doing some testing, I’m not convinced.

Now if you have Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate and a machines that supports hardware virtualization, Microsoft will provide you not only a virtualization system, but also a copy of Windows XP to run under that virtualization system — so it might be a good choice from that standpoint. But…

Performance and features… well — VirtualBox has every feature in the Microsoft product, seems to run substantially faster, and supports more modern hardware emulation.

I need to do more testing to be totally sure, but at this point my feeling is just run VirtualBox on _all_ Windows 7 editions; and find an old copy of Windows XP to install in a virtual machine (you’ll have to read over the license agreement in detail from Microsoft to figure out if you can use the VHD they provide for XP Virtual Mode in another virtualization host).

Had Microsoft used the Hyper-V code base rather than the Virtual PC 2007 code base for virtualization in Windows 7 it would be a very different beast; but I guess the kids in Redmond can’t imagine someone actually wanting to do real virtualization on a desktop machine; but they can certainly justify raping you some feature in Professional and Ultimate verses Home Premium.

Originally posted 2009-11-18 01:00:29.